Owners Newsletter – August 2019

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act but a habit.”–Aristotle

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – AUGUST 2019

NEW ARMY BRIGADE – In my May 2018 newsletter, I discussed the Department of the Army’s announcement of a new brigade being assigned to Fort Hood. The 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB), one of six brigades the Army has authorized, was formally activated last month at Fort Hood. The brigade is made up of approximately 820 officers and noncommissioned officers. All are professional combat advisors. Fort Hood presently has slightly less than 37,000 assigned soldiers, with roughly 5,700 soldiers currently deployed abroad, including 432 troops on the Mexican border.

TRANSFER ON DEATH DEED – A relatively recent Texas law allows real property owners (in Texas) to record a “Transfer on Death Deed” (TODD) naming a beneficiary to own that property after they die. A properly recorded TODD skips the expensive and lengthy probate and allows the beneficiary to avoid court costs, administrative costs, attorney fees, etc. The TODD doesn’t completely replace a will, but it does allow you to transfer ownership of your real property outside of the will. A TODD can be a very handy instrument, especially if a will is disputed or challenged. Additionally, if your will names someone to inherit your real property and you’ve since decided you’d rather another person to receive it after you die, a properly executed TODD trumps the will. Whether you own 100% of the real property, 50%, or as little 1%, the TODD allows you to select the beneficiary of your share. You can also name more than one beneficiary. Your beneficiary can be person, organization, institution, or a charity. A TODD also excludes the real property from Medicaid estate recovery. A will doesn’t exclude the real property from Medicaid estate recovery, which can collect back for five years. Since a TODD doesn’t take effect until you die, you are free to sell your property while you are alive, get loans on it, and maintain your tax exemptions. Disclaimer: Please note, this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be considered as legal advice for your particular matter. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Applicability of the legal principles discussed in this material may differ substantially in individual situations.

TEXAS RANKINGS – According to a WalletHub study, Texas is the tenth most fun state and is tied for first with California, Florida, and New York for the most restaurants per capita. Texas is ranked the fifth best state for summer road trips, and twelfth best state in the nation for jobs. Austin is ranked the fifth best place to start a career and also fifth in the highest monthly average starting salaries and fourth in the top large cities to start a business.

David Gerke
Broker

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – JULY 2019

“It’s a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do.”
-Walter Winchell

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – JULY 2019

R-22 PHASE OUT – This is really important! If your rental property has a central air system that was installed prior to October 2015, the system operates with R-22 refrigerant, which is also referred to as freon. Since October 2015, the cost of R-22 refrigerant has increased noticeably. However, as of January 1, 2020 (in six months), it will be illegal to import or to manufacture R-22 in the United States. Consequently, the cost of R-22 is going to skyrocket.

PLAN AHEAD – If you own one or more of the older central air systems, now is the time to begin planning (and saving up) for its eventual replacement, especially if you’ve already experienced previous or recurring repairs. Yes, there are some new synthetic refrigerants that can be used in the older systems, but the alternative refrigerants decrease the effectiveness of the system considerably and will not cool as well. The alternatives also have considerably more oil in them than R-22, which will “gunk up” the older systems. Using these alternative refrigerants will likely hasten the demise of your property’s central air system.

COSTS – Up until now, we have been able to keep the cost of R-22 Refrigerant at $50 per pound. Unless a repair is strictly an electrical issue, charging the system with some amount of R-22 is a near certainty. In some areas, contractors are now charging $120 per pound or more. As supplies of R-22 dwindle, the cost of charging an older system will no longer be cost effective. Several area HVAC (heating, ventilation, & air conditioning) contractors have already informed us that they will no longer carry R-22 refrigerant as of January, 2020. Presently, the average cost of replacing an entire system (outside condensing unit & inside evaporator unit) is about $4,500.

CONVERSIONS – Some HVAC contractors will offer to perform “conversions”, that is, switching out the system’s coil, condenser and line set, but most are recommending a full system replacement because the cost difference is only a few hundred dollars. If you have to spend that kind of money, you’ll want to go with a new system, which comes with a manufacturer’s five-year warranty and is extended to a ten-year warranty when the new system is registered by the owner or installer. Don’t forget, owning a rental property allows you to deduct expenses associated with repairing your investment such as replacing a central air system.

FINAL THOUGHTS – Most HVAC system failures occur in the summer months, when the central air system is under the most stress. The ideal time to replace an older system is in the cooler months, not during periods of extreme heat when your renters need their A/C the most. Scheduling the replacement of a full system takes time. Demand for full replacements will surely increase once R-22 becomes illegal, making wait times even longer. You definitely don’t want to risk losing your renters coupled with the cost of replacing your central air system.

David Gerke
Broker

Owners Newsletter – June 2019

“Storms make oaks take deeper root.”   -George Herbert

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – JUNE 2019 

 TORNADO – In the late afternoon of Sunday, June 9th, a confirmed EF-2 tornado touched down in Copperas Cove near Grimes Crossing Road and Big Divide Road. Wind speeds are reported to have reached 115 MPH. According to the National Weather Service, the tornado path was close to a mile long with damage to properties on either side of the path. We are in the process of inspecting all of the properties we manage in the vicinity of tornado’s path and will notify owners of any significant damage we find. At this time, none of the properties we manage sustained major damage that we are aware of. Thus far, damage to properties we manage has consisted of missing and/or broken shingles, damage to older privacy fences, and some damaged storage sheds. With the exception of one house in Kempner, none of the damage we’ve come across has warranted filing an insurance claim.

CONTACT US – Reports of the tornado via social media have prompted many property owners to call and e-mail us regarding the status of their properties. E-mailing us is best and we will reply to all e-mails promptly. Inspecting all of the properties we manage in the Copperas Cove area will take some time, but we will get this done as quickly as possible. If you suspect that your property has been damaged and prefer to have it inspected immediately, please notify your insurance company and send us a follow-up e-mail.

CAUTION – When storms or tornadoes impact an area, it is common for opportunists to swarm in and take advantage of unsuspecting property owners. We have spoken to some renters that have already had roofing companies tell them that we or the property owners directed them to inspect their homes. Beware of these companies or individuals that may only be looking to make a quick profit off the misfortune of others. If you are contacted by anyone you do not know or that you have never conducted business with, it would be wise to direct them to our office. As your property management company, we have your back and can ensure that any work performed on your property is done legitimately and by reputable contractors.

David Gerke

Broker

Owners Newsletter – May 2019

“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”
-George Orwell

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – MAY 2019

CHEAP RENTS – Apartment rents in Killeen are the fifth cheapest in the nation among small cities. In a recent study by RENTCafè, an internet listing service, the national average apartment rent was $1,419 in 2018, up 3.1% from 2017. In Killeen, the average apartment rent was $713 last year. It’s no surprise that many renters who work in the Austin area are choosing to live here, where they can save several hundred dollars per month. Austin rents are close to the national average, but a downtown 884 square foot apartment is close to $3,000 per month.

RENTAL ACTIVITY – We leased thirty-six properties in April consisting of twenty-eight single-family houses and eight apartments. We ended the month with an occupancy rate of 100% in all categories. The rental market is extremely tight currently. Our application rejection rate was 63% last month, which further illustrates the demand we are experiencing. Rents are on the increase in all categories, which has been a pleasant and welcome change for many rental property owners. Small cities in the United States experienced the highest rent increases last year and this trend is now impacting our area. Barring an unforeseen economic downturn, we will likely continue to see rising rents this year and beyond.

WHERE TO RETIRE – If you’re planning on retiring in the near future and are looking for a location where taxes are low and the cost of living is very affordable, Where to Retire Magazine has taken all of the guess work out of locating the perfect spot. Of the seven cities in the U.S. that were under consideration for the number one spot, Killeen, Texas, took first place as the top city to retire in. No state income tax and businesses offering military discounts were contributing factors.

REMINDERS:

1. Protect your investment – There is still time to have your property’s central air system serviced and checked before the summer heat kicks in. Lack of maintenance is the number one cause of system failure. Contact our maintenance department for details and to schedule this important service.
2. Buying or selling – As the stewards of your real estate investment, our property management services are complimented with our full-service real estate sales team. Whether you’re looking to buy, sell, or just need real estate advice, look no further than Hunter Rentals and Sales. Ida Gayton (Ida@HunterRentals.com) and Sue Burton (Sue@HunterRentals.com) are ready to assist you with all your real estate needs.

David Gerke
Broker

Owners Newsletter – April 2019

“Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you.”  -Spanish Proverb

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – APRIL 2019

FLOOD INSURANCE FACTS – The following are some important facts about flood insurance.
#1 – Flood is not covered under standard homeowners insurance policies
#2 – Flood insurance costs less than 35 cents per day. The average flood costs a consumer $55,000
#3 – 20% of all floods occur in low-to-moderate risk neighborhoods (neighborhoods that probably
never flooded before). Just an inch of water that enters your home can cost you thousands
in damage
#4 – It takes 30 days for a flood insurance policy to take effect. Thinking you can buy flood
insurance when you need it is not a wise decision. It’s important to carry flood insurance
year round
#5 – The government will not pay for losses not covered by a flood policy.
For more information about flood insurance or a free evaluation of your present coverage, contact Toby Brooks (toby.brooks@goosehead.com) at Goosehead Insurance Agency, LLC.

PROJECTED LOSSES – According to the State Flood Assessment Report to the 86th Texas Legislature, the Texas Water Development Board estimates that coastal and riverine flooding combined will cause more than $6 billion in property losses over the next five years.

TAX APPRAISALS – Many property owners in our area are seeing a sharp increase in the tax valuation of their properties for 2019 (especially owners of multi-family properties). Yes, property values are on the rise, which means most of us will be paying more when property taxes become due. The good news for most rental property owners is that rents are also on the rise, which will help offset the higher tax bills. To view your property’s current and past tax valuations, tax rate, and to verify that the county’s information is accurate, go to www.bellcad.org for properties located in Bell County or www.coryellcad.org for properties located in Coryell County.

RENTAL TRAFFIC – Demand for rental housing continues to be strong in all categories. Our occupancy rate has been close to 100% for many weeks. Many non-military families cannot afford the expensive rents in the Austin area and are moving to the Killeen, Belton, Temple, and surrounding areas to live. The 45-60-minute commute to work in Austin is not an impediment for most folks. Fort Hood currently has 36,000 soldiers assigned and relatively few (about 2,000) soldiers deployed at the moment. The base will be deploying roughly 4,000 soldiers to South Korea this summer, but this will likely have little impact on the local housing market.

David Gerke
Broker

OWNERS NEWSLETTER — MARCH 2019

“He that blows the coals in quarrels that he has nothing
to do with, has no right to complain if the sparks fly in
his face.”-Benjamin Franklin

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – MARCH 2019

$30 MILLION PLANT OPENS – In August 2017, shortly after U.S. Highway 190 was designated as Interstate 14, MGC Pure Chemicals America decided to make Killeen home to its $30 million chemical plant after considering locations in San Antonio, Bryan-College Station, and Louisiana. Located in the Killeen Business Park, the plant just celebrated its grand opening and will soon begin production of super pure hydrogen peroxide for use in the semi-conductor industry.

HOMEOWNERSHIP – According to a recent Bankrate homebuyers survey, 79% of the consumers surveyed believe that owning a home is vital component to achieving the American Dream. The respondents placed homeownership ahead of retirement (68%), a successful career (63%), and owning an automobile (58%).

SECOND HOMES – In a recent mortgage data analysis, financial web site Smart Asset looked at mortgage data from 402 U.S. housing markets and found that Killeen ranked 31 overall for second home mortgages. Many of the markets listed in the ranking were vacation and retirement destinations like Ocean City, Panama City, Florida, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Killeen has a robust market for real estate investors. Additionally, many military families keep the home they purchased in Killeen as an investment and buy another home at their new duty station.

RENTAL MARKET – Demand for rental housing has been the highest we’ve experienced in over 33 years and doesn’t show any signs of slowing. We are maintaining almost 100% occupancy in all categories and with the small supply of available homes and apartments, rents have been on the increase for most properties as they become available or as renters renew their leases.

A/C CHECKS AND SERVICING – We have started our annual servicing of air conditioning units for those owners that have requested this preventative maintenance. The service includes checking the wiring, housing, and fan relay of the inside unit. The fan motor, housing, blower wheels, air filter, thermostat, plenum, attic ducts, evaporator coils, and drain lines are also checked. The outside unit coils, wiring, fan motor, blades, Freon level, and pressure are checked as well. The cost of this service is $65.00 plus tax and does not include parts should a repair be necessary. If you wish to have your property added to our list, please e-mail our maintenance department at repairs@HunterRentals.com

David Gerke
Broker

Owners Newsletter – February 2019

“Science is good furniture for one’s upper chamber, if there
is common sense below.”  -Oliver Wendell Holmes

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – FEBRUARY 2019

TAX EXEMPTION – Homestead property taxes were entirely eliminated for 100% disabled veterans beginning in 2009. In 2011, the exemption was extended to the spouses of 100% disabled veterans. In Bell County last year, 7,403 properties were tax exempt. Of that number, 4,297 of those properties were located in Killeen. Additionally, $1.27 Billion in veteran owned land was also tax exempt in Bell County. Killeen is projected to lose over $5 million in tax revenue this year when factoring in these exemptions and other exemptions granted to less than 100% disabled veterans. Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Committee to Support the Military is pushing the state’s Legislature to give full reimbursement to cities like Killeen and counties surrounding military installations for 100% of the lost revenue. Tax revenue is what funds police and fire departments and other vital programs and services to our communities. Updates to follow.

INSURANCE – Please take a few minutes this month to review your existing homeowners insurance policy. Do you have adequate coverage on your investment property? Are you paying too much? Your investment property may not be located in a flood plain, but does your existing coverage protect you against flash flooding or run-off resulting from new construction? What about sudden and accidental water discharge, foundation, or back-up of sewer drain lines and seepage? Does your current policy protect you against dog bite claims? More than one-third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claims are the result of dog bites and canine related injuries. Toby Brooks (toby.brooks@goosehead.com) is an agency owner with Goosehead Insurance and an expert on all matters related to property insurance. Give Toby a call (254-721-8104) or e-mail him if you have insurance questions. Toby will work hard to find you the best policy and can save you money in most cases.

OFFERS TO BUY – If you receive a letter or postcard in the mail or even a phone call from someone wanting to purchase your property, chances are it’s a scam, especially if it sounds like an amazing deal for you. If the person contacting you is legitimate, you can be certain that he or she is looking for a deal that serves their best interests, not yours. The real estate market in our area is robust and the public tax rolls make property owners an easy target for scam artists and bargain hunters. The best advice is to ignore such solicitations entirely. If you’re curious about selling or interested in knowing your property’s value, simply give us a call or send us an e-mail. The information and advice we provide is free. You’ve already entrusted us with the care of your investment and can feel confident that the information we provide is sound, accurate, and that we represent your best interest.

David Gerke
Broker

Owners Newsletter – January 2019

“If it were not for injustice, men would not know justice.” -Heraclitus

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – JANUARY 2019

BEST PLACES TO LIVE – In a recent US News ranking of the best places to live in 2018, Austin, Texas came in at the #1 spot out of 125 of the study’s most populous metro areas in the United States. Killeen was ranked at #90, Dallas#19, and Houston at #26. Criteria for the study included place value, desirable place to live, strong job market, and high quality of life.

BACK FROM THE BORDER – Of the approximately 700 Fort Hood soldiers that were deployed to the South Texas-Mexican border last November, nearly all of the 297th Inland Cargo Transfer Company’s (part of the 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade) troops have returned home. These soldiers were part of the 7,000 military personnel that were sent to secure the border late last year.

LOAN LIMITS INCREASED – The conforming loan limit for VA loans in 2019 has been increased to $484,350 in most US counties, an increase of $31,250 from last year. The conforming loan limit for FHA loans in 2019 has been increased to $314,827, which is an increase of $20,312 from last year. The new loan limits are even higher in some areas where homeownership is more expensive.

CREDIT REPORTS – Experian, one of the largest credit reporting agencies in the nation, recently announced that it will soon allow consumers the option of having their cell phone bills and utility payments factored into their credit scores. This move could allow approximately 46 million consumers with limited credit data to instantly increase their credit scores.  A recent REALTOR® Magazine article mentioned that Fair Isaac Corp., the creator of the FICO credit score, will soon be initiating a new credit score with Experian that will look at a consumer’s history of managing their savings and checking accounts. This could boost the credit scores of consumers that maintain several hundred dollars in their accounts and don’t go into overdraft. Negative information, such as tax liens and judgments, have already been removed by Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion in an effort to boost the credit scores of consumers.

SINGLE-FAMILY RENTALS – Now the largest source of rental housing in the United States, single-family rentals make up about half of the overall rental market according to Freddie Mac in a recent REALTOR® Magazine article. Single-family rentals provide housing to 25 million Americans and this particular market is primarily driven by small investors, according to Steve Guggenmos, Vice President of Multi-Family Research and Remodeling. These small investors have portfolios consisting of anywhere between one to as many as fifty properties and are in a market that has the potential for growth over the next few years, according to Freddie Mac.

David Gerke

Broker

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – DECEMBER 2018

“The price of greatness is responsibility.”-Sir Winston Churchill

 OWNERS NEWSLETTER – DECEMBER 2018

NEW NAME – For over thirty-two years, we have been known as Hunter Rentals & Property Management. Beginning this month, we are proud to announce our new name (and logo), Hunter Rentals & Sales. Although property management has been and continues to be the staple of our organization, real estate sales and listings are services we have always provided as a brokerage. Since real estate sales and property management are nearly inextricably linked, Hunter Rentals and Sales seemed the perfect fit for our rebranding while maintaining our very recognizable namesake. Other than the name change and new logo, our staff, professionalism, and dedication to providing the best possible property management and real estate services remain the same.

VA STATISTICS – The Veterans Administration (VA) loan benefit turns seventy-five years old next year. This valuable benefit allows military veterans to obtain home financing with a zero-down payment, no private mortgage insurance, and somewhat less stringent qualifying requirements than other loan programs. According to the software firm Ellie Mae, the VA loan has had the lowest interest rate on the market for the past 58 months. Amazingly, the VA loan has had the lowest foreclosure rate of any loan product on the market for forty-eight consecutive quarters in spite of the zero down payment perk. In a recent Veterans United press release, it was noted that VA loans now make up 10% of the loan market. In 2018, the VA backed a record 610,000 loans worth $161 billion. In 2018, the Fort Hood area saw 3,400 homes purchased with VA loans.

INTEREST RATES – The VA fixed interest rate on a thirty-year mortgage is presently 4.5%. The thirty-year rate on an FHA loan is 4.625%. The interest rate for thirty-year conventional loans is presently 5% (4.5% on a fifteen-year loan).

RENTAL ACTIVITY – Demand for rental housing continues to remain strong as we near the year’s end. We ended the month of November with 99% of our single-family homes occupied, and nearly 100% of our multi-family units occupied. The market typically slows down to a crawl around mid-month December, but is expected to pick up steam again during the last week of the year and into the New Year.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS – From the entire staff here at Hunter Rentals, we wish you a safe and blessed holiday season. We sincerely appreciate your faith, support, and patronage. Best wishes for a happy and successful New Year!

David Gerke

Broker

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – NOVEMBER 2018

“Be thankful we’re not getting all of the government we’re paying for.” -Will Rogers

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – NOVEMBER 2018

RECORD RAINFALL – Less than three months ago, area counties were experiencing “extreme drought” conditions, the second most severe category. This past summer was one of the hottest and driest summers on record according to the Texas state climatologist, John Nielsen-Gammon. May through August of this year were tied for the second hottest on record. However, rainfall we received in September and October made it the wettest two-month period on record, with close to seven inches of rain in September and more than seven inches in October. By the end of October, Texas had received more rainfall than it receives on average in an entire year. The Killeen area saw close to ten inches of rain last month. Belton and Stillhouse Lakes are both thirteen plus feet above normal presently.

MORE JOBS – Z Modular has purchased a 230,000 square foot building in the Killeen Industrial Park and will be hiring 250 workers within the next three years. The company will be manufacturing American-made steel framed modules for different markets such as university student housing, and affordable multi-family housing.

AMONG FASTEST GROWING – Killeen has been ranked in the top 100 fastest growing cities in the nation according to a recent study released by Wallet Hub. The study looked at 515 cities nationwide.

CARMAX – CarMax, a national used car dealership chain, will be opening a new dealership in Killeen early next year. The dealership currently has 190 stores nationwide in 41 states. The dealership’s new 7,480 square foot facility will be located along Central Texas Expressway in Killeen where Faith Point Church used to be located.

MORE APARTMENTS – The frontage area of Rosewood Drive and Interstate 14 will soon be the home to a new 216-unit three-story apartment complex. The community will include nine multi-family apartment buildings and a club house.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING – Many thanks for your trust and continued loyal business. We are ever mindful that you are the reason for our success. We salute those of you serving in the armed forces and for the sacrifices you are making. Our thoughts are with those of you that cannot be with your families or loved ones this holiday. We wish you all a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

David Gerke

Broker